Private citizens have continued to receive extortion emails related to high-profile data thefts according to the Internet Crime Complain Center (IC3). These individuals are falsely advised that their personal and private information including name, credit card numbers, address, and phone numbers will be broadcast to their social media contacts unless a ransom is paid via Bitcoin, a virtual currency transaction providing almost Ransom amounts range from 2 to 5 Bitcoins (approximately $250 to $1,200) and the payment deadline is typically short.
The fraudsters initiate these extortion campaigns upon news releases detailing high-profile data breaches. Based on the variations in the extortion emails, the FBI suspects these criminal campaigns are perpetrated by multiple individuals.
Reach out to your local FBI field office and file a complaint with the IC3 at www.ic3.gov if you believe you have been victimized in an extortion email scam. Remember to include keywords “extortion email scheme” in your complaint, along with any relevant details, the extortion email with header, and if available, the Bitcoin address.
TIPS TO PROTECT YOURSELF:
- Do not open e-mail or attachments from unknown individuals.
- Monitor your bank account statements regularly, as well and as your credit report at least once a year for any fraudulent activity.
- Do not communicate with the subject.
- Do not store sensitive or embarrassing photos of yourself online or on your mobile devices.
- Use strong passwords and do not use the same password for multiple websites.
- Never provide personal information of any sort via e-mail. Be aware, many e-mails requesting your personal information appear to be legitimate.
- Ensure security settings for social media accounts are turned on and set at the highest level of protection.
- When providing personally identifiable information, credit card information, or other sensitive information to a website, ensure the transmission is secure by verifying the URL prefix includes https, or the status bar displays a “lock” icon.
The FBI advises against paying extortion demands. Funds paid will encourage criminal activity, violent crimes, and potentially organized crime.